Bloody Bones – Family Folk Game


On a phone call with informant RM, they remembered a game they used to play with their children and grandchildren when they were young. As they recalled the many times they played this game, RM smiled and laughed at the fond memories it elicited.


Game Name: Bloody Bones

The game is played inside a house at night when young children or grandchildren should be asleep. When RM would hear children still making noise (talking or watching TV), they would “become” Bloody Bones. Usually, this meant that RM put in fake teeth or took off their shirt. They would quietly walk just a few feet from the children’s bedroom door and begin to repeatedly say, “bloody bones gonna getcha” in a haunting voice. Bloody Bones would then creep closer and closer to the door to see if the children were continuing to make any noise. The only way to “beat” Bloody Bones was to go to sleep and be completely quiet. If Bloody Bones made it to the children’s door they would bust through the door into the children’s bedroom and scare them.

As the children grew older, they became more rebellious and would play this game by trying to outsmart Bloody Bones. RM recalled one time where their children would make “traps” for Bloody Bones by placing objects and small toys such as jacks on the ground so that they could hear when Bloody Bones was approaching. RM also recalled one time when they came into the bedroom to scare the children, but they were all hiding under the bed and in closets. Both Bloody Bones and the children laughed when there was no one around for Bloody Bones to scare.

No matter who wins, the game ends when both the children and Bloody Bones go to bed.


While this family game primarily functions to scare children into going to sleep, I believe that it also gives insights into the relationship between its players and the personal values of the informant. Most parents or grandparents would simply disciple their children/grandchildren when they disobey their bedtime rules. Informant RM, however, crafted a game that functioned to correct/adjust their children/grandchildren’s behavior. I am inclined to think that this game reflects a personal belief that obedience can be attained in a creative or fun way. This game has a dual function of correcting behavior while simultaneously creating opportunities for fun. I believe that Informant RM cherishes their relationship with the players of this game and does not want to always be seen as the “bad guy” who enforces rules and disciplines their children. Through “Blood Bones,” RM has created a new identity for themself who can be a figurative “bad guy” that accomplishes the same goals as disciplinary action would.